Amy Grant remembers the first concert she did with a symphony orchestra.

It was in the 1980s, a big outdoor concert in Dallas. She had just a handful of charts — orchestrations for her songs — from which to draw.

“I was only on for 45 minutes,” she recalled last Friday during a phone call from her Nashville home. “I was so embarrassed that (the audience) had paid a high ticket price, but I did not have very many charts. Orchestrations are expensive. Just to develop a library to be a guest with a symphony is a time-consuming and financial undertaking.”

Fast forward to last Friday morning. Just before 10 a.m. Nashville time, Grant got the phone call she had been hoping for: the green light for a special project with the Nashville Symphony that would help young independent artists get charts written for their music. The artist would donate their time to the orchestra in exchange for a concert’s worth of charts, said Grant, who sits on the Nashville Symphony board.

Grant said the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra has said it would be interested in hiring some of those artists for concerts.

Grant, who makes her Tucson Symphony Orchestra debut on Saturday, admitted it might at first be a hard sell for a young artist.

“The way music is any more, the way people make a living is not through record sales but through live performances. That’s how everybody pays their bills,” explained the 53-year-old critically acclaimed pop and Christian singer. “So to go to an artist and say, ‘Hey instead of getting paid, would you like $25,000 or $30,000 worth of charts?’ That’s what it comes down to.”

The Nashville program will kick off June 29 with pop singer/songwriter Ben Rector, who Grant said has a large following in Music City.With the charts in hand, Grant said “those young artists could go other places” and, in turn, orchestras might find new audiences.

“I love guesting with symphonies but I also try to use my creative energies to say how do we cross-pollinate younger, musically rabid audiences with the world of symphony,” said the mother of four whose husband is country singer Vince Gill. “Popular music gets a lot more attention, but there are struggling symphonies all over the country.”

Grant, who started recording while she was still in high school in 1977, is the biggest selling contemporary Christian pop singer ever, with record sales topping 30 million. She also has recorded cross-over pop and soft-rock hits, including “Baby Baby,” “I Will Remember You,” “The Next Time I Fall” and “Find A Way,” all of which she will draw upon for Saturday’s concert. She will perform about two thirds of her time with the orchestra, a few songs with her band and at least one song with just her and her acoustic guitar.

“Symphony performances are unlike anything else. Just the dynamic range is phenomenal,” she said. “There are parts of different orchestrations that I am so excited to hear. The song ‘I’ll Remember You,’ the second verse, the string parts are wonderful. That sounds goofy to be looking forward to. … I just look forward to making connections with musicians on stage, enjoying their talents and hopefully making the Music Hall feel like a big living room so people will feel comfortable and relaxed and want to come back.”

Contact reporter Cathalena E. Burch at or 573-4642.

Contact reporter Cathalena E. Burch at or 573-4642.

I cover music for the Arizona Daily Star.